An Interview with Juan Travieso

Artist Juan Travieso, based out of New York and Miami but originally from Havana, Cuba, creates dazzling images of endangered species confronting the 21st century's impending destruction of their habitats and, ultimately, their lives.  Through geometric distortion and complex visual cues, Travieso is able to invent a singular vision where vanishing culture and the dissolving of nature are one in the same.  We recently sat down with Juan in anticipation of our Thursday, June 15th limited edition print release of "Expiring #4" to collect his thoughts on life, his artistic process and more:

When & where were you born?  What was your life like as a child?

I was born on May 11, 1987. In Habana, Cuba. My life as a child was filled with curiosity. I was always playing outside with my friends. Exploring the streets of Habana, Cuba.  I remember having a care free experience. One of my favorite memories as a young boy was playing in the rain on the street.

When did you begin to become interested in art and what led to you pursuing it as a career?

I started my career as an artist at a very early age. I remember that growing up in Communist Cuba. There was not an abundance of toys or stores that had them available.  So In Cuba in the early nineties there was only 3 channels on TV. They would only play 30 minutes of cartoons a day at 6:30 Pm every weekday. That time was religious for me.  I would never miss the cartoons. My interest in art started through trying to draw the cartoons from the Television. By doing this, I would have them to look at after the fact. In addition I would cut them out and play with them as figurines. This is how my passion for art started. It was out of necessity.  After that it was an obsession with drawing that has never dissipated.

Your ability to showcase animal's (and sometime's humanity's) struggles with contemporary times is incredible, what were your influences in describing their plight in such a way?

Thank you. My influences are their stories. I am driven my narrative. My focus is to try and do my best throughout the process, creating visuals that often tell stories about the worlds current conditions. I believe that art has an incredible potential to shed light on difficult problems. Making my audience think about the beauty we are losing everyday is one of my approaches.

Could you tell us a bit about your release with us this week?

I am very excited about this print edition. I don't usually release prints very often. This is an opportunity for anyone who likes my work to have it at an affordable price. The People's Printshop has made this reality and I am very happy to be working with you guys. This piece that is being released is one of my favorite paintings that I have ever done.

What does a normal day in the studio consist of for you?  Do you listen to music, watch Netflix...?  

When I am in my New York studio I wake up and go straight to work. It's my lifestyle. I love to be surrounded by art all day. I usually work 12 hour days.  To some people this might be hard. But I enjoy it so much that I don't mind. I try to make sense of the world all the time. So I watch lots of documentaries and listen to them as well.  In my music library I have a big array of multicultural music from all over the world. I love all music. There is no painting for me without music.

Do you approach creating your murals any differently than your normal work?

I don't really approach them differently. I love putting in as many details on my murals as I do on my studio work. But I do realize now that I have collaborated with many great artists such as: Reinier Gamboa, David Olivera, Mwanel Pierre-Louis, Leo Castaneda, Adrian Avila and many others. Painting murals is about scale and how the piece is meant to be read. Normally murals are seen from afar.  So I don't put as much detail as I used to.  Its not necessary so I guess this would be the biggest difference.

What do you find to be the most difficult aspect of creating?

Being a creative is already difficult in itself.  Especially in this global society.  However the most difficult aspect of creating is staying in the present with your work.  As a creative I am always a work in progress.  I am never satisfied and am always looking to reach new heights in technique and approach.  Creating images from scratch and making them successful is a very time laborious and difficult task.  I have failed so many times as a creative to make successful paintings that it would almost be odd to create one that seems "perfect." My quest for this possibility continues but I truly believe that I learn the most and grow the most through experiencing failure. It keeps painting interesting.

The easiest?

The act of painting is the easiest. When you love something as much as I love to paint, it rarely ever feels like anything other than my choice.

What can we look forward to from you next?

I am working on a couple of secret projects that I can't disclose. But I am having a small solo show at Thinkspace Art Gallery project room in Culver city in 2018. Stay tuned for that.  We are currently working on the date.

What is your favorite animal?

My favorite animals are big cats, Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Panthers etc. I like photographing them. I love watching their behavior. Most of these species are endangered and need our help. So The World Wildlife Foundation is a great way to help. If you don't know about it look into it. Biodiversity is key for our survival.